Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) are by far the most talked-about ingredients in cannabis. But what exactly are they? More importantly, what’s the difference between THC and CBD? Each chemical does significantly different things.
Ultimately, though, they both work together in interesting ways to produce some of weed’s most important effects. In many ways, these chemicals make cannabis what it is; they are responsible for some of weed’s most important and unique properties. Here’s everything you need to know about the difference between THC and CBD.
Understanding Cannabinoids: The Difference Between THC and CBD
THC and CBD are both cannabinoids, a unique class of chemical compound produced naturally by the cannabis plant. All told, researchers have identified more than 500 compounds in cannabis. Over 100 of them are cannabinoids.
The thing that makes cannabinoids unique is the way they affect your body’s endocannabinoid system. Essentially, the human body is equipped with tons of receptors designed specifically to interact with cannabinoids. When those chemicals enter your body, they naturally bind to the receptors.
When cannabinoids and endocannabinoid receptors “communicate,” it triggers a number of different effects. Depending on the cannabinoids, you might feel high, sleepy, or even mental stimulated. Alternatively, you could experience pain relief or some other medicinal effect.
Although there are a huge number of cannabinoids, THC and CBD are among the most important. They are largely responsible for weed’s most sought-after effects. And that’s true whether you’re using weed recreationally or as medicine. Now that you know a little bit about the chemistry that makes cannabis work let’s get into the specifics.
What is THC?
To put it simply, this chemical is what gives weed its psychoactive properties. It’s what makes you feel high. Scientists learned a lot about THC during the late 1980s. That’s when they discovered the CB-1 and CB-2 receptors in the brain. It turns out that those receptors help regulate appetite, mood, pain, memory, and more.
THC binds to these receptors. This is why consuming it creates the sensation of being high. Similarly, it’s why this chemical is so good at increasing appetite, pain management, and treating various psychological disorders like PTSD and depression.
At the same time, THC can sometimes produce effects that can be overwhelming for some consumers. For example, many people experience feelings of anxiety and paranoia. Fortunately, other cannabinoids like CBD help balance all that out.
What is CBD?
In the past, many of the medicinal properties of this cannabinoid were mistakenly attributed to THC. But as research has continued, scientists have learned that CBD is responsible for many of those qualities.
One of the big surprises researchers found was that CBD actually balances out some of the adverse effects of THC. For example, it reduces the anxiety and memory loss some people experience from THC. This is a key difference between THC and CBD.
Beyond that, this chemical has a number of health and medical properties. So far, researchers have found that CBD may be helpful for treating:
- nausea and vomiting
- some psychotic disorders
- certain neurodegenerative disorders
- some tumors and certain types of cancer cells
- Multiple Sclerosis.
In recent years, cannabis breeders and growers have focused on creating high-CBD strains to tap into these medical properties. These strains are great options for medical marijuana patients who don’t want to get high.
The Entourage Effect
If THC is the main psychoactive ingredient in weed, then CBD is the main medicinal ingredient. Of course, this is an overly simplified way to think about the difference between THC and CBD, but it’s a good general rule to help you remember the main differences between the two. To put it more simply, THC gets you high, CBD doesn’t.
The truth of the matter, though, is that the two cannabinoids complement each other. They work together. More specifically, CBD mellows out the potentially negative effects of THC.
Similarly, certain effects produced by CBD are more effective if it’s consumed alongside THC. This tendency for cannabinoids to work better when they’re together rather than when they’re isolated is known as the “entourage effect.”
If you are trying to target a very specific effect, you may still want to go with strains or products that try to isolate a specific cannabinoid. One of the most common situations where this arises is among medical patients who need CBD, but who don’t want to feel high or stoned.
But if possible, it’s good to get the full range of cannabinoids. This lets you tap into the power of the entourage effect.
Final Hit: What’s The Difference Between THC and CBD?
Knowing the difference between these two cannabinoids will help you select the best cannabis for your needs. When you are buying weed, consider what effect you are looking for.
If you are looking to get baked and have a good time, then THC-rich strains are probably the best choice for you. Strains that are known for having high levels include:
- Charlotte’s Web
- Critical Mass
Studies have shown that strains with a balanced ratio of THC and CBD provide the most medical benefits. With an ever-expanding variety of new strains with different levels of THC and CBD, you will have plenty of options to experiment with until you find the perfect strain.